Eric Dolphy

Guillaume Belhomme feels that Dolphy is underrated and works to rectify the deficit with impressive biographical and discographical detail

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Guillaume Belhomme’s book on Jackie McLean (also recently reviewed by me) did not give the impression that he thought McLean was under appreciated. In contrast the introduction to this book (which is also in French) makes clear that Belhomme’s decision to write it was based firmly on a feeling that Dolphy’s contribution to jazz is not valued as highly as it should be.

Because Dolphy’s career was so much shorter than McLean’s the author is able to cover the recordings and the associated biography in greater detail. Although what he calls “the early years” (1928-53) are skipped through in a mere six pages, the detail thereafter, both musical and biographical is impressive – from Dolphy’s meeting with Ornette Coleman in 1954 and his “at home” recording with Clifford Brown in the same year to his tragic death a decade later.

The detailed discussion of the numerous recordings certainly revived my interest in Dolphy’s music. And the lengthy account of his last six months, including the European tour with Mingus, the optimism of the decision to remain in Europe with his fiancée and the misdiagnosis which may have ended his life unnecessarily, certainly makes a gripping tale.

As with the book on McLean there are a number of black and white illustrations, using photos, record sleeves and other memorabilia, and further useful addenda. If your French is up to it and Dolphy is of interest this book could be a valuable acquisition.

Eric Dolphy by Guillaume Belhomme. Éditions Lenka Lente, pb, 128pp; with illustrations, chronology, discography, bibliography 28pp. ISBN 979-10-94601-20-4.

(An edition in English of Guillaume Belhomme’s Eric Dolphy was published in October 2023 by Wolke Verlag of Germany. More information and order details here.)